The Criterion Collection: July Releases

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Each month, the Criterion Collection releases a selected number of titles onto DVD and Blu-ray. For the most part, these are films that have seen sort of home video release previously, but would never reach the shelves of your local Best Buy or Barnes and Noble without the extra push that the Criterion Collection gives it. Aside from cleaning up the picture and sound (frequently working from the original negative), providing some nifty packaging and artwork, and making your DVD collection look that much more cultured and refined, Criterion provides the valuable service of rescuing films that otherwise would never see the light of day, so not only can you proudly show off your sets, you can tell people that you’re performing a public service. Here’s what’s coming out this month:

P13605811NAKED

If any of you ever wondered what that guy from Harry Potter who wasn't Gary Oldman could do when not saddled with fake Latin and excessive wandplay, you might be pleasantly surprised by Naked. The film is almost entirely plotless, which better provides David Thewlis a platform on which to scream, shout, and generally be a pontificating bully with his only weapon being his verbosity to savagely assault his victims. Such a thing could grow tedious quickly, but Thewlis lets it all hang out, almost as if he were performing Withnail & I as a one man show. The direction is, at times, a little rough, but never lacking in pure savagery.

1993 • 131 minutes • Color • Surround • 1.85:1 aspect ratio

SRP: $39.95

DIRECTOR-APPROVED BLU-RAY SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES 
• Restored high-definition digital transfer, supervised and approved by director Mike Leigh, with DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack
• Audio commentary by Leigh and actors David Thewlis and Katrin Cartlidge
• Exclusive video interview with director Neil LaBute
• An episode of the BBC program The Art Zone in which author Will Self interviews Leigh
• The Short and Curlies, a short comedy from 1982 directed by Leigh and starring Thewlis, with audio commentary by Leigh
• Original theatrical trailer
• PLUS: A booklet featuring essays by film critics Derek Malcolm and Amy Taubin

image_1683817BEAUTY AND THE BEAST

It's common for critics to mask their true feelings under layers of analytic pretension, as if an emotional response were the true mark of a plebeian. But sometimes, that's just impossible, and this is one of those cases: Beauty and the Beast is one of the most beautiful films ever made, and perhaps the only true challenger to The Wizard of Oz as the greatest fantasy film ever made. The story, of course, is familiar, but the spirit of invention that director Jean Cocteau manages to imbue every action and interaction with reveals an immersion in source material that could hardly ever go out of date.

1946 • 93 minutes • Black & White • Monaural • In French with English subtitles • 1.33:1 aspect ratio

SRP: $39.95

BLU-RAY SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES
• High-definition digital transfer from restored film elements, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack
• Composer Philip Glass’s opera La Belle et la Bête, presented in 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio as an alternate soundtrack
• Two commentaries: one by film historian Arthur Knight and one by writer and cultural historian Sir Christopher Frayling
• Screening at the Majestic, a 1995 documentary featuring interviews with cast and crew
• Interview with cinematographer Henri Alekan
• Rare behind-the-scenes photos and publicity stills
• Film restoration demonstration
• Original trailer, directed and narrated by director Jean Cocteau, plus restoration trailer from 1995
• PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by film critic Geoffrey O’Brien, a piece on the film by Cocteau, excerpts from Francis Steegmuller’s 1970 book Cocteau: A Biography, and an introduction to Glass’s opera by the composer

P13605809THE MUSIC ROOM

The films of Satyajit Ray have always been about as much fun as extracting dead teeth, but they do earn the critical plaudits that they tend to receive, as well as the entirely overused adjectives that they tend to inspire (lyrical, etc.). The Music Room is no different, settling its gaze on the fading fortunes of a member of India's old aristocracy, who still insists on keeping up appearances despite having fewer and fewer avenues of supporting it. His decline is considerably less graceful than that of Burt Lancaster in The Leopard, or even Scarlett O'Hara's, but it certainly does not suffer for the comparison.

SRP: $39.95

SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES 
• New digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
• Satyajit Ray (1984), a feature documentary by Shyam Benegal that chronicles Page 3 of 6
Ray’s career and includes interviews with the filmmaker, family photographs, and extensive clips from his films
• New interview with filmmaker Mira Nair 
• New interview in which Ray biographer Andrew Robinson discusses the making of The Music Room and the film’s cultural significance
• Excerpt from a 1981 French roundtable discussion with Ray, film critic Michel Ciment, and filmmaker Claude Sautet 
• New and improved English subtitle translation
• PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by critic Philip Kemp as well as reprints of a 1963 essay by Ray and a 1986 interview with the director about the film’s music

P13605802HIGH AND LOW

Frank Miller wasn't the first person to draw the connection between the rough-and-tumble world of the samurai and the equally bloodthirsty streets of the blossoming noir genre; if his filmography is any indication (which it probably should be), the master himself was aware of the link. Along with Stray Dog, High and Low is one of Kurosawa's generally overlooked works set in the modern day, and like his looks into the past, they are startling in both their brutality and humanity. They are also startling in their sheer Toshiro Mifune-ness, which is due at least in part to their starring the actor Toshiro Mifune.

1963 • 143 minutes • Black & White/Color • Surround • In Japanese with English subtitles • 2.35:1 aspect ratio

SRP: $39.95

BLU-RAY SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES
• High-definition digital restoration, with original four-track surround sound presented in DTS-HD Master Audio
• Audio commentary by Akira Kurosawa scholar Stephen Prince
• Documentary on the making of High and Low, created as part of the Toho Masterworks series Akira Kurosawa: It Is Wonderful to Create
• Rare video interview with actor Toshiro Mifune
• Video interview with actor Tsutomu Yamazaki, who plays the kidnapper 
• Theatrical trailers from Japan and the U.S. 
• PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by critic Geoffrey O’Brien and a reprinted on- set account by Japanese film scholar Donald Richie

P13605803LEON MORIN, PRIEST

France has a long history of producing impossibly cool leading men: Jean Marais, Jean Reno, and Maurice Chevalier to name but a few. Jean-Paul Belmondo is probably just as terminally cool (mainly through his identification with Godard, the uber-coolest director), so it only figures that he'd make a cool priest that makes all the local female parishioners want to get him to break his vow of chastity. Directed by Jean-Pierre Melville, Morin is a profound spit-in-the-face in the grand tradition of Godard and Pasolini.

1961 • 117 minutes • Black & White • Monaural • In French with English subtitles • 1.66:1 aspect ratio

SRP: $39.95

SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES 
• New high-definition digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
• Archival interview with director Jean-Pierre Melville and actor Jean-Paul Belmondo
• Visual essay by French film scholar Ginette Vincendeau
• Original theatrical trailer
• PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by critic and novelist Gary Indiana

P13605805LIFE DURING WARTIME

Todd Solondz is always good for a surprise, and Life During Wartime is certainly no different. Less a sequel to his most notorious film than an odd inversion of it, Wartime takes several characters from Happiness and recasts them, pushes them further on in their life, and, in at least one case, resurrects them from the grave. It's safe to say that Wartime falls in line with Solondz's earlier work, both in terms of formal experimentation and abrasiveness of spirit, but if you're new to him, too, this might not be a bad place to start. It is, at the very least, his one collaboration (thus far) with Pee Wee Herman.

2010 • 97 minutes • Color • Surround • 1.78:1 aspect ratio

SRP: $39.95

DIRECTOR-APPROVED SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES 
• New digital transfer, supervised and approved by director of photography Ed Lachman, with DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
• Ask Todd, an audio Q&A with director Todd Solondz 
• Making “Life During Wartime,” a new documentary featuring interviews with actors Shirley Henderson, Allison Janney, Michael Lerner, Paul Reubens, Ally Sheedy, and Michael Kenneth Williams, and on-set footage of the actors and crew
• New video piece in which Lachman discusses his work on the film
• Original theatrical trailer
• PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by film critic David Sterritt

Jul
13
2011
Anders Nelson • Associate Editor

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